Thyroid cancer symptoms
Thyroid cancer usually develops slowly, without many obvious symptoms. However, some people may experience one or more of the following:
- a lump or nodule in the neck (which is usually painless, and may grow gradually)
- swelling in the neck
- trouble swallowing
- difficulty breathing
- changes to the voice, e.g. hoarseness that doesn’t go away
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck (which may slowly grow over months or years)
- a cough that doesn’t go away.
Even though a painless lump in the neck is a typical sign of thyroid cancer, around 90% of painless lumps found in adults aren’t cancer.
Having an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) is not usually a sign of thyroid cancer.
Sometimes I felt people were a little dismissive because thyroid cancer has a good outlook. They would say ‘If you’re going to get cancer, that’s the best type to get’. But I didn’t find this very helpful. Hearing the word ‘cancer’ made me feel gutted and afraid.Read Jen’s story
Podcast for people affected by cancer
A/Prof Diana Learoyd, Endocrinologist, GenesisCare North Shore, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, NSW; Emeritus Professor Leigh Delbridge AM, The University of Sydney, Thyroid Surgeon, The Mater and North Shore Private Hospitals, NSW; Prof Ruta Gupta, Tissue Pathology and Diagnostic Oncology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; Susan Leonard, Cancer Nurse Coordinator Thyroid and Brachytherapy, Cancer Care Services, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Dr Dean Lisewski, Endocrine and General Surgeon, Fiona Stanley Hospital and St John of God Hospital, Murdoch, WA; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Jonathan Park, Consumer; A/Prof David Pattison, Deputy Director and Senior Staff Specialist, Department of Nuclear Medicine and Specialised PET Services, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and School of Medicine, University of Queensland, QLD; Prof Bruce Robinson, Endocrinologist, Co-Head, Cancer Genetics, Kolling Institute of Medical Research, The University of Sydney and Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Marissa Ryan, Team Leader (Cancer) Pharmacist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, QLD.
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